The last time Aaron Sorkin had a high-profile political television show, liberals used it to cope with the decline and fall of the Clinton Presidency and the long winter of the Bush Years. The West Wing was a coping mechanism for the death of a liberal dream, and so is The Newsroom. Both are an escape into fantasy to avoid dealing with the harsh reality.
On an episode of Seinfeld, George is stung by an insult but is unable to think of a retort, so he spends days trying to come up with the perfect comeback, until he finally thinks of it and travels around the country to get the chance to deliver it. The Newsroom, set in the past, and jumping in right before the political balance tilted toward the Republicans in the mid-term elections, is the same thing.
The Newsroom is Sorkin’s sad attempt to win an argument by rewriting history and coming up with all the comebacks that his side couldn’t think of two years ago. It’s the sad and pathetic spectacle of an ideology creating its own fantasy version of its reality in which it won the argument.
Unlike The West Wing, The Newsroom isn’t set in an alternate world in which the universe innately favors liberals. Instead it’s set in an alternate version of the past, in which liberals were smarter and won all the arguments that they ended up losing here. And the existence of The Newsroom is the greatest possible concession that the argument was lost.
There’s no reason for Republicans to look down on The Newsroom. It’s a safer outlet for liberal anger than Occupy Wall Street. It’s a miniature universe in which they are smarter, nobler and better than everyone else. Children have fantasy worlds like that. There’s no reason that liberals shouldn’t. Not only does it give them the security of believing that they really were superior, but it prevents them from learning any useful lessons from their defeat.
It’s never a bad thing when your enemies escape into a delusional state, to a world of their making in which they are in complete control of everything. It makes it more likely that they will cede at least some control over the real world. And it’s not only an admission of defeat, but of emotional and mental fragility. Adults don’t need to build fantasy worlds to escape the effects of their failures on their precious self-esteem. That’s for overgrown children who are used to getting trophies for just showing up.
The Newsroom is the kid that everyone hated losing his race for class president and creating a fantasy world in which he won the election and everyone cheered his obnoxious tantrums. It may not be good for him, but it’s good for us because it means he hasn’t learned to win. All that he’s learned to do is manage the emotional experience of defeat through delusional tantrums of superiority.
Propaganda that tells you that you won, when you actually lost, is corrosive; it inhibits any serious self-evaluation. And without some soul-searching and error-checking, the same mistakes are bound to be repeated over and over again. Seventeen years after the Clinton Presidency was nearly torpedoed by universal health care, his party’s successor, who defeated the woman who shaped the initiative, went down the same road, but with much less caution.
That kind of stupidity would not have been possible if the winners had learned any lessons from the past. But the winners had been living on The West Wing, in which liberal speeches and principles are all it takes to win. Where the good guys never lose, because the scripts are written that way. Rather than living in the real Clinton Years, many of them had been living in the imaginary version. Now, rather than remembering the actual Obama Years, they will remember The Newsroom‘s fictional version of them. And they will make the same mistakes all over again.
HBO, which has invested big in liberal propaganda, knows exactly what it’s doing. At a time when customers are dropping cable, particularly the high-priced packages, it is insulating itself with a built-in audience. Forget MSNBC or Comedy Central with their tantrums against real-life Republicans, on HBO, liberal audiences can go on safe safaris to see experienced liberal great hunters taking potshots at imaginary Republicans.
When the real-life Republicans are just too scary, the good liberal viewer flees to HBO, where the Republicans are just waiting to be deflated with a smarmy line about school prayer, science or terrorism. Just as the family sitcom reassured viewers about the state of the nuclear family, HBO reassures liberals about the state of their ideology, nurturing them and coddling them, until they are ready to reemerge at the next political rally.
The message that The Newsroom feeds to liberals is that they didn’t have enough self-esteem, they weren’t as self-confident, as abrasive and as biased as they should have been last time around. And that’s a welcome thing, not for anyone who still harbors hope that a sane two-party system will prevail, but those who want to see liberals destroy themselves, their institutions and their ambitions.
If liberals acted in public life the way that they do on The Newsroom, they would be signing their own political death warrant. The Newsroom‘s message to the media is to be more openly biased. And who wouldn’t welcome that? The media’s last shreds of credibility come from its pretense that it is neutral. The day that news anchors routinely take to the air, announce their political affiliation and begin to rant about Republicans is the day that the last pieces of their empire come crumbling down. The day that every news channel is MSNBC is the day that they will all have to divide the MSNBC audience among themselves.
The liberal media is already following that path, and their newspapers, magazines and news shows are turning into ghettos because of it. The Newsroom berates them for not following it quickly enough. And the faster they go down that road, the less influence they will retain. If I wanted to destroy the liberal media, I would encourage them to follow The Newsroom’s model. And while they won’t listen to me… they will listen to Aaron Sorkin.
The real topic of The Newsroom is egotism and it’s the perfect mirror for the destruction of the administrations of two egotistical Democratic chiefs who self-destructed because they had as little impulse control as The Newsroom‘s protagonist. The celebration of self-destructive behavior is self-destructive and it programs the Democrats to seek out the next cycle of egotistical, self-destructive politicians.
A failure to recognize one’s own flaws means an inability to change. Hell is being trapped in one’s own flaws forever. And that is The Newsroom, it is a hell that liberals have made for themselves, a Sisyphean exercise in which they roll the boulder endlessly up the hill, only to be flattened by it, and then resume the same exercise without having learned anything in the process except to push the boulder even faster next time.
The Newsroom reeks of its own smugness. It is entirely self-reflective. Its politics are a matter of identity. And that identity creates its own universe. There are universes like that already in cloistered urban centers, in ideologically-gated communities and in academia. And when their inhabitants mistake the larger world outside as being no different than their universe, the contest between the ideology and the world begins.
To the sociopath, the universe is a solipsistic place. So too the modern liberal sees the world as a place on which to force his own sense of internal identity. He reacts to the “otherness” of those who don’t share his political identity by trying to stamp them out. If he can’t physically destroy them, then he retreats to physical and mental enclaves where he destroys them intellectually over and over again, fighting battles against legions of ghosts and shadows, mocking and ridiculing them out of existence, until he is forced to face them in real life and attempts to treat real people the way that he treated the imaginary obstacles to his ego.
With The Newsroom, the cycle continues as, anticipating defeat, liberals retreat to a safe place in an imaginary version of the past, in which they can line up all their enemies and knock them down like rows of toy soldiers, in which everything seems clear and certain, and their side always wins. Their hibernation is a good sign. It’s a sign that they are afraid they are about to lose.
Bears leave hibernation in the spring, but, since the spring, liberals have begun crawling into their own caves, arranging the cushions, closing the blinds and shutting away the world, for the better world glowing from their television screens.
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